The Desire to Stock the Larder

One of my homestead dreams is a pantry with shelves displaying jewel-toned rows of canning jars, showcasing the finest, tastiest batches of tomato sauces, salsas, green beans, corn, pumpkin butters and an inumberable variety of other preserves. I feel best, especially in the fall and winter months, when the pantry is stocked and everything is in it's place. So I was really excited when I found Stocking Up III when I was out thrifting today. This book really is the bible of home preserving, with information on not only canning, drying and freezing, but on root cellaring, juicing, producing dairy foods, and sprouting. It got me thinking– maybe I can put up some preserves, with a little planning of course, at the Apartment Farm this year. Now keep in mind that I have never attempted canning or drying. I have a few memories of my Mom and Grandma doing small batches of things like tomatoes, but my clearest memories are of being in my Great Grandma's farm kitchen (back in the waning heyday when you could still call it a farm) when she would put up an entire winter's worth of food for a family. I remember very clearly always being underfoot, and reading the instructions on the steps it takes to properly can, it's apparent that one needs a lot of room and organization in the kitchen to make everything move along smoothly. I am anal-retentive with organization, but space in the kitchen is something I am definitely short on. So it seems that small batch preserving will be the way to approach things this season, and that also lends itself to the huge learning curve I'll be contending with. If something goes wrong on a batch of 4 jars of tomato sauce rather than 20, it will be slightly less heartbreaking if I have to throw it out. I've been thinking very hard on what I'd like to try my hand at canning this year. I've settled on foods that we love and eat on a regular basis; there will be plenty of time to try new recipes and combinations once I've got the basics down. I think food drying will be a little easier since there are less steps involved. And I've also decided to try freezing some things that I haven't before. Convieniance is definitely a factor in our lives, and if I can devote a couple of weekends putting up wholesome food from the farmer's market, that will be one less jar or can of preservative-laden GMO food we have to buy from the supermarket. And that makes me feel good inside. My canning list, even it's it's "essential basics-only" form will still probably seem quite ambitious for a beginner. But I can't help it; that's just the way I do things. The following lists are what I'm going to try to put up this year; quantities of each item I'm still not sure on. I'll have to figure out how much I'm willing to spend on canning jars (this first year is so expensive; but there's clearly a savings in each succesive year one cans) and how much space I devote to food storage. So, this is what I'm going to try:

Canning

  • Tomato Sauce
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Salsa
  • Minestrone Soup
  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Applesauce
  • Dill Pickles
  • Honey Mustard
  • Strawberry Jam
  • Pumpkin Butter

Drying

  • Banana Chips
  • Apple Slices
  • Grapes for Raisins
  • Bison Jerky

Freezing

  • Stirfry Mix (containing bell peppers, carrots, edamame)
  • Meatballs
  • Stuffed Green Peppers
  • Waffles
  • Pancakes
  • Biscuits
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Turkey Breast Rolls (stuffed with bread stuffing)

The drying and freezing I think will be the easiest for me to learn and master, but the canning will take a lot of reading and meticulously following the instructions as I go through the process the first time. But I'm excited about giving it a try. I am definitely in a privileged position as I learn to do this– my family's survival does not depend on whether I get it right. I really feel a sense of awe as I think of all the women before me who learned by trial and error and from working with their own mothers, to preserve everything their family needed to eat for an entire year. It's impressive. I think I can honor the tradition by giving it a shot (and hopefully being successful at it!).

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